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The chainsaw is a mainstay of the construction industry. It is time-honored, efficient, productive and powerful. It is also, however, extremely dangerous, and failure to use it properly can result in serious injury, including lost limbs and even death. Avoiding injury and increasing productivity with these valuable tools means learning to maintain and use them properly.

Initial Examination

Always examine the saw carefully before starting it up. Check the chain tension and make sure all bolts and handles are secure and everything is lubricated properly. If you need to add fuel, do so at least ten feet away from any flames. Ensure that your fuel container is a maximum of 5 gallons, is constructed of metal or plastic and is approved by a nationally recognized testing and regulating agency.

Running the Saw

When you start up the saw, take care to maintain a secure hold on it at all times, keeping footing secure and hands on the handles. Make sure that there are no obstacles in the area which could interfere with cutting or retreat paths, or interfere with the saw. Never cut overhead and make sure that before you back away from the cutting area, you shut off the saw and release the throttle.

Whenever you are transporting the saw for a distance greater than 50 feet, turn it off or engage the chain brake. This also applies if you will carry the saw over hazardous or uneven terrain. Try to use a saw that has a chain brake, guide bar, low kickback chain or other safety features. Kickback is a major danger when using these tools.

Proper Personal Protective Equipment

The right PPE is essential for safe use of a chainsaw. Be sure that your hands, head, eyes, ears, face and legs are all protected from injury due to flying wood, kickback or other potential accidents.

Inspect your PPE before every shift to be sure it is in good shape and will provide adequate protection. Any time a chainsaw is being used, the following areas must, according to OSHA guidelines, be protected:

  • Head
  • Ears
  • Eyes
  • Face
  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Hands

Proper Training

Any who are involved in the use of chainsaws should be properly trained and educated in not only the use of the tool, but in the performance of their assigned duties. Proper training in safety procedures allows workers to anticipate and avoid situations that can result in injuries and accidents. OSHA guidelines for training include education in specific practice, procedures and work site safety guidelines, blood-borne pathogens, first aid and CPR, specific hazards associated with assigned duties, and the safe operation, use and maintenance of all tools and equipment including the chainsaw.

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